It was just a little more than a year ago, on June 5, 2010, that a group of 426 knitters, crocheters, cross-stitchers and needlepointers set a Guinness world record by doing those things continuously during a New York Mets game at Citi Field under the watchful eye of Deborah Norville. Now you know what one does after being replaced on “The Today Show” by Joe Garagiola or someone.
Nate Robertson was the starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins and Jonathon Niese was going for the Mets that night, so that probably had something to do with it. (Robertson vs. Niese might not be the Bizarro World equivalent of Koufax vs. Marichal, but it might explain the run on knitting needles and crochet hooks at the local Hobby Lobby when it’s their turn to pitch.)
First there were peanuts and Cracker Jack; now there is Stitch N’ Pitch, “which brings together two wonderful traditions — baseball and the needle arts.” I’ll bet not even Bob Costas was aware of that.
Stitch N’ Pitch, it can be assumed, is a relatively new phenomenon; otherwise, there’s probably a pretty good chance that John Rocker would still be employed as a left-handed setup man. From what I understand, it is difficult to work up a homophobic rant when one is knitting baby booties or crocheting an afghan in the visitors’ bullpen.
This season, 16 major league teams and more than 150 minor league ones are holding Stitch N’ Pitch days or nights, taking the baseball yarn to a whole ‘nother dimension. The 51s held theirs Monday night, against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at Cashman Field on a beautiful night for a ballgame, or hooking an afghan.
There wasn’t a lot of notice about Stitch N’ Pitch Night, which was unfortunate. Had their been a bigger turnout, perhaps the Stitch N’ Pitchers could have combined their talents to crochet the 51s a new ballpark, after the Nevada Legislature last week failed to approve a bill that would have created a special taxing district for one.
For a while Monday, the only evidence of arts and crafts at the ballpark was a giant quilt — or as they call them in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder warmup jackets — for which the Las Vegas Quilters were selling raffle tickets on the home plate concourse. But then the Las Vegas Hookers — what, you expected they’d call themselves the Hairpin Loom Artisans — arrived, and soon there was enough needling going on to impress the old Gashouse Gang.
Insert hook, yarn over, pull strand through loop, yarn over … repeat … about a bazillion times. Although these women make the hooks and needles flash like switchblades at a street fight, it still seems tedious to the untrained eye. It is sort of like watching Carlos Zambrano pitch out of a bases-loaded jam when he’s irritated about something.
Dana Eads, who was working on — what else? — an afghan, said a big one, the kind you can throw over the back of Fielder’s sofa, usually takes her a couple of months. Angela Applegate, the Hookers’ president, was fashioning a sock that her friend Shannon Paul tried on, and the consensus among bystanders was there should be an unwritten rule against that, like stealing second while leading 8-1 in the late innings. One of the other Hookers was crocheting an orange thing that appeared on its way to becoming a pot holder or, more likely, another afghan.
These needle arts are a lot like baseball, in that one learns to do them as a youngster, with the primary exception being that once you master the technique, it’s easier than hitting a curve ball or the cutoff man.
About that time, the 51s’ Brett Cecil was finishing his warmup pitches. He would be opposed by Edgar Gonzales of the Sky Sox. It wasn’t exactly Nate Robertson vs. Jonathon Niese, and yet the chances that several afghans would be finished by the home sixth seemed a distinct possibility.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.